Artistic Freedom

In grade school, Judith Powers was a strong student. But her teachers repeatedly reminded the Evansville native that her pencil should be completing assignments and not sketching drawings.

“Needless to say, I always have drawn,” says Powers, a graduate of F.J. Reitz High School. “I wasn’t really into schooling; I just wanted to paint and go ride horses.” Growing up, her passion was horses. Not only did Powers love to draw the animals, but her desire as a young girl was to be a cowboy. “Because cowboys got to ride horses all day,” she says.

Through the years as she grew up, her dreams of owning her own horse became reality. Hours were dedicated to grooming and caring for her horses, raising several foals, and taking long rides through the countryside with friends. When she and her first husband trained retrievers for the American Kennel Club (AKC) licensed field trails for many years, Powers once again found her way to painting, completing numerous works of retrievers and their owners, along with many other dogs.

“Others saw the portraits and asked if I would paint their dogs. It just kind of snowballed into this business,” she says.

Powers has commissions all over the U.S., from portraits of beloved family pets and children to many well-known murals throughout the Tri-State. Her projects can be found at Turoni’s Pizzery in Newburgh, Indiana, Western Ribeye & Ribs, Wild Birds Unlimited, Golf Plus, churches, libraries, and private homes.

“I just feel like I’ve been blessed to meet the most wonderful people and their pets. We’ve become friends and have remained friends,” says Powers. “Painting is something that I do and that I never take for granted. It’s a lot of fun to get up every day and do what you absolutely love.”

What was your first commission?

The very first I had, I will never forget. It was a huge oil painting. One of my art teacher’s friends was a Hadi Shriner in the horse patrol. He wanted a painting of his horse done and I remember doing this white horse for him. I don’t have a picture of it. I don’t really remember what it looked like; it probably was atrocious. But he was thrilled with it. And I was thrilled that he was thrilled. I was a junior in high school. That was kind of neat.

Why do you feel you are drawn or attached to art?

It’s something I’ve always done. I guess you could say I was born with a pencil in my hand, not a silver spoon. Sketching was second nature for me and it was part of what I did. In school, I took art classes and was introduced to painting and different mediums. Pastels and oils are my favorite mediums of choice. Everything evolved into this whole new world of art and I loved it. Horses were my passion and I couldn’t imagine my life without them. I studied every aspect of them from anatomy to movement to the different color patterns. All of it fascinated me. There was something I was drawn to, no pun intended.

Who has given you inspiration?

Some of my earlier inspirations came from a western artist Orren Mixer. I also loved Norman Rockwell, how he could tell a story. But Mixer was just big. I still haven’t been able to find anybody that can do horses like he did. He was amazing. I like the realism of being able to tell a story with paints and have someone feel like they could walk into the story or that they had a similar experience — the love of a puppy, the smile on a child’s face — all those little things that just endear you to a painting. It has to evoke emotion or it doesn’t come across. For me, in my paintings, I want someone to feel something when they look at my work.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

I am very detail oriented. I love to do all the details. It drives some of my other artist friends nuts. They ask why I put all that detail in and I usually say it’s because that’s what I see. I see leaves on trees; I don’t see blobs of color. I’ve developed this style over the years and I tell my art students not to paint like I do. I can teach them basics. But it is up to them to develop their own style. Everyone has his or her own style.

What is the biggest challenge when working on a mural?

The biggest challenge is putting it on the wall and having the perspective and the colors look as good from a distance as they do up close. In other words, a lot of things look good from a distance but when you get up close, it looks like they’ve been painted with a broom. Since I’m detailed orientated, that is first and foremost when I put it on the wall. Whether it is 4 feet tall, 6 feet tall, or whatever, (I think about) how is it going to come across. There’s a lot of planning that goes into it before you put the paint on the wall.

What advice do you have for someone who feels frustrated with their painting?

I would encourage anyone to never give up. Anyone can paint. It’s just about having the determination to do it and never give up. Stop telling yourself you can’t and start telling yourself you will. It won’t be perfect the first time, but it’s ok because each time you do this, you’re learning more and more. It’s like a stepping-stone to sitting down and being comfortable, knowing what paints to mix to create colors, and more. Experience is the best teacher.

For more information about Judith Powers, call 812-457-0606.

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